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The National Bank of Serbia held its 2-week repo rate unchanged at 9.50%. The Bank said: "The key risks to inflation projection stem from the international environment due to the still unresolved crisis in the euro area, as well as from fiscal policy at home. Keeping the budget deficit within the framework earlier agreed with the IMF would serve as an additional safeguard of macroeconomic stability and leave more scope for future relaxation of monetary policy."
The Bank previously cut the interest rate by 25 basis points in January, 75 basis points in December and November, 50bps in October, and 50bps in September, after pausing in August, while previously the Bank reduced the 2-week repo rate by 25 basis points to 11.75% at its July meeting, and cutting the rate 50 basis points at its June meeting to 12.00%. Serbia reported inflation of 7% in December, down from 8.7% in October, 10.5% in August, 12.1% in July, 12.7% in June, 13.4% in May, 14.7% in April, and just above the bank's inflation target range of 3-6%.
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The Bank of Korea kept its 7-day repurchase rate at 3.25%. The Bank said: "In Korea, economic growth has slowed, with domestic demand subdued overall and exports also decreasing. On the employment front, however, the uptrend in the number of persons employed is being sustained, led by the private sector. The Committee anticipates that the domestic economic growth rate will gradually return to its long-term trend level going forward, although viewing downside risks as likely to remain high for some time due mostly to the impact of external risk factors."
At its January meeting the Bank of Korea also held the interest rate unchanged at 3.25%, after increasing the 7-day repurchase rate by 25 basis points to 3.25% at its June meeting. South Korea reported a steady consumer price inflation of 3.4% in January, down from 4.2% in November, compared to 3.9% in October, 4.3% in September, 5.3% in August, 4.7% in July 4.4% in June, 4.1% in May, and 4.2% in April.
The inflation rate is currently just within the Bank's inflation target of 2%-4% through 2012. The South Korean economy grew 0.7% in Q3 (0.9% in Q2), placing annual GDP growth at 3.4% (3.4% in Q2). The South Korean Won (KRW) has gained about 1% over the past year against the US dollar, while the USDKRW exchange rate last traded around 1,120.
The European Central Bank (ECB) kept its Main refinancing operations rate at 1.00%. ECB governor, Mario Draghi, said: "Inflation is likely to stay above 2% for several months to come, before declining to below 2%. Available survey indicators confirm some tentative signs of a stabilisation in economic activity at a low level around the turn of the year, but the economic outlook remains subject to high uncertainty and downside risks.... A very thorough analysis of all incoming data and developments over the period ahead is warranted."
The ECB previously announced (noting further collateral approvals) a series of measures "to support bank lending and money market activity". These measures included longer-term refinancing operations (LTROs), reduction in the reserve ratio to 1% from 2% presently, and increasing collateral availability through reducing the rating threshold for asset-backed securities (ABS), and allowing national central banks to accept bank loans as collateral. Essentially the moves are designed to prevent a freezing up of credit markets and liquidity akin to that seen during the global financial crisis.
Previously the ECB cut the interest rate by 25 basis points at its November and December meetings. The ECB last increased the interest rates by 25 basis points at its July meeting; pausing in May and June, after raising the rate by 25 basis points to 1.25% in April last year. The Euro Area reported annual HICP inflation of 2.7% in January, 3% in November and October and September, 2.5% in August and July, 2.7% in June (same as May) and above the Bank's inflation target of maintaining inflation below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.
The Euro Area reported quarterly GDP growth in the September quarter of 0.2% (1.4% y/y); the same as the June quarter of 0.2%, following a 0.8% increase in the March quarter, and a 0.3% increase in the December quarter of 2010. The Euro (EUR) has weakened by about 3% against the US dollar over the past year, while the EURUSD exchange rate last traded around 1.33
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The Bank of England (BoE) held the Bank Rate at 0.50%, and expanded its Asset Purchase Program (Quantitative Easing) target by 50 billion to a new total of GBP 325 billion, after increasing it by 75 billion at its October meeting. On its asset purchase program, the Bank said: "In the light of its most recent economic projections, the Committee judged that the weak near-term growth outlook and associated downward pressure from economic slack meant that, without further monetary stimulus, it was more likely than not that inflation would undershoot the 2% target in the medium term."
The Bank also held the official Bank Rate unchanged at 0.50% at its December meeting last year; the rate has remained on hold since March 2009, when the Bank reduced the interest rate by 50 basis points to 0.50%. The United Kingdom reported annual consumer price inflation of 4.2% in December, 5.2% in September, 4.5% in August, and 4.4% in July, and still above the Bank's inflation target of 2.00%.